The Cycle | August 24, 2012
>> chilling audio recordings from nypd radio transmission this morning after reports of shots fired outside manhattan's empire state building . police were able to respond within minutes thanks to nearby construction workers who saw the shooting, followed the suspect, and alerted two uniformed counterterrorism officers near the building. i want to bring in former philadelphia mayor ed rendell . welcome, governor. how do big cities respond to reports of shots fired like this? take us back to being mayor of philadelphia and how is all of this coordinated on local, state, federal response ?
>> well, the first response of course is the police . and as soon as someone calls 911 like that construction worker did, or he actually didn't call 911 but --
>> a citizen called 911. that would alert the local police . the local police would have the first and primary responsibility for trying to apprehend and to investigate this. because it involved a firearm, the federal authorities usually the department of i call it --
>> tobacco and firearms.
>> right. they would be brought in to look at the gun and trace how it was obtained, etcetera. now, i think here the gun was obtained legally. almost 21 years ago.
>> right. in florida.
>> he didn't have a permit to carry in new york but a permit to carry doesn't do much good once the gun has been used. but that's the way the response would be. and we traced these crime guns and again this fellow was not your typical gun criminal. your typical gun criminal is someone with a prior record who can't get a gun, who has to get a gun through an illegal source or through a gun show . the gun show loop hole. or has to get it by buying it on the street from a straw purchaser, a multiple purchaser. and then the police and the department of tobacco and firearms would trace that gun back to its original buyer. they'd investigate how the buyer got the gun to the person who used it. the buyer would say, oh, it was stolen or i lost it and that's the end of it.
>> right, but governor, the fact that he didn't have a permit to carry is i think important. i mean, he engaged in a criminal act by bringing that gun into new york city and the fact is stricter gun laws wouldn't necessarily have stopped him. guns are already illegal in new york city .
>> no, there is no question. but the key is to stop and in this case since he bought it legally it's impossible to have stopped him. the key is two things. one to stop guns from getting into people's hands who have no legal right to buy them or own them.
>> then two, to limit the carnage the gun can do. now it's my understanding here that he only fired the eight bullets that were in his gun. but in many cases, in aurora we had a fellow who had a magazine that could fire a hundred, a clip that could discharge a hundred shots without reloading. he had an automatic rifle , semiautomatic rifle . those things used to be illegal in the united states , both the mobile --
>> right. clearly this incident was very different from what happened in aurora.
>> very different.
>> tell me what went right today and what went wrong from the law enforcement and municipal side?
>> well, what went right is the citizen. the construction worker deserves high praise from all of us. at some risk to himself. he didn't know if that guy would have turned around and wheeled on in. he followed him. he found the nearest law enforcement official and alerted them to the fact that -- what had happened. it's too early to criticize the response of the police who fired. did they fire in a way that endangered civilians? we don't know the facts well enough to comment on that. and it's a difficult call for the police . do you let someone who has just committed that level of violence escape or do you try to bring him down in a way that doesn't endanger other civilians in a crowded street? it's very difficult. the investigation has to reveal that. so potentially things could have gone wrong and could have been prevented but we'll just have to see.
>> i want to follow up on that, governor. you're mayor of a big city for 15 years or so. i wonder if you encountered a situation like this where the police were in an area, a crowded area, maybe a tourist area , shots were fired and there were innocent bystanders and there was a question were some or all of the bullets coming from the police ? how do you handle it as a player?
>> i think you do what mayor bloomberg did today. you urge restraint and patience. there has to be a comprehensive investigation. the police have to reconstruct the scene as much as humanly possible to determine whether that officer, the officers acted properly. now, of course, your instinct as an officer, you know you've got a killer who's got a gun and potentially could kill again and your instinct is to stop him to bring him down. but there are rules and regulations and requirements that the police department has in operation about when in a crowded situation like that you can and should discharge your gun. could they have followed him a little further and gotten him out of the crowd into an alley? who knows? we have to wait and not make any prejudgments. look, a job of a police officer is brutally difficult because you have to make snap decisions on the street. and it's easy for us to recreate and second guess and say i would have done this or would have done that.
>> but we've got to wait and not make a prejudgment here.
>> governor, i want a little bit more granular about what a big city mayor does when the phone rings or somebody rushes in and says, downtown, lots of people. a shooting has happened. what do you do in the first minute or two after you've been given that information as the mayor?
>> well, i think you pray that the carnage is least as possible and then you get yourself like mayor bloomberg did to the scene to try to help calm the situation, to try to comfort if a family member there is to try to comfort the family members. it's very difficult. there is very little you can do in immediate response. that's why you have a police commissioner and basically need to stay out of the way of the police commissioner too. but the mayor has a role as mayor bloomberg did to calm people and say let's not make any snap judgments. let's wait and see what happens. so i think mayor bloomberg did just the right thing today.
>> governor, the human cost here is apparent and horrific. in terms of the, what it actually will cost the city, what does a tragedy like this run in a city's budget and is that planned for in advance or is it an extra line item that has to be added on?
>> it's never planned for in advance. let's take the worst case scenario and say that the policeman acted improperly. again, i want to stress there is no evidence of that right now.
>> people who were injured are -- could sue the city. the city could have to pay a judgment for that. there's usually some contingency fund for that but it almost always goes over. it can be difficult. but the price in terms of dollars is not nearly as important as the price in terms of what happens to the feel and the perception of the city. thanks to mayor guiliani and mayor bloomberg , new york 's become a very safe big city . but a shooting like this on the streets in front of one of the premier buildings in new york creates an atmosphere that could at least in the short run depress tourism. and of course so much of new york 's economy is based on tourism.
>> so you really -- you know, so many thoughts go through your head when you're mayor and something like this happens. you want to make sure people know it's an aberration, that it wasn't a normal street crime . it wasn't a robbery. it was over a firing on the job. you try to create as best a spin as you can from it. but it's extraordinarily difficult. and i know that this wasn't the case here. it's not aurora. it's not tucson. it's not virginia tech . but lord knows we have to have a real discussion about guns in this country and i don't know if you noticed the virginia tech survivors and family victims join the tucson family of victims calling on both governor romney and president obama to present to the people a plan for how we'll start curbing gun violence in this country.
>> all right.
>> ed rendell , stay with us.